OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (NAACP) announced today their endorsement of State Question 805 (SQ805) is the right step forward as Oklahoma confronts its mass incarceration crisis. Oklahoma has recently taken steps to address its mass incarceration crisis, but a critical aspect that still must be fixed is sentence enhancements. Sentence enhancements are a tool prosecutor use, at their own discretion, to add years and sometimes decades to a person’s sentence. These harsh sentencing practices have been levied against blacks and minority communities in Oklahoma for decades, which is why the Oklahoma State Conference, NAACP announced today their endorsement of SQ805.
“Oklahoma’s black and minority communities make up a disproportionate share of our state’s prison population, and a leading reason for that is prosecutorial discretion with sentence enhancements that allows people to be sentenced more than once for the same crime,” said Anthony R. Douglas, President, Oklahoma State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
We are fully aware that District Attorneys across the state have also publicly opposed the measure, saying it would negatively impact public safety. However, what they don’t tell you is that the over-incarceration of blacks and minority populations is not because these Oklahomans are more prone to commit crimes. What they should tell you is that this bad policy that has hurt many blacks and minority communities and can be fixed with State Question 805.
Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate of black men in the nation. One in 29 African American adults in Oklahoma is in prison. Black people make up 7% of the Oklahoma population, but 26% of the incarcerated population. Latinos make up 9% of the Oklahoma population, but 15% of the incarcerated population. Decades of bad criminal justice policies have torn families apart and hurt Oklahoma’s black and minority communities, all in the name of making the state safer. This is because of “tough on crime” laws that led to unaddressed issues with criminal justice policy, implicit bias against blacks and minorities within the justice system and unequal enforcement of the law.
“State Question 805 is needed to bring common-sense sentencing reform to our state so we can address our incarceration crisis head on. State Question 805 will end the use of sentence enhancements for nonviolent offenses, and it would allow Oklahomans who have already received an extreme sentence to petition the court for relief.
I encourage all Oklahomans to sign the petition to get SQ 805 on the ballot and vote ‘yes’ later this year when it appears on the ballot.” To realize how sentence enhancements have been used, Oklahomans should understand the racial disparity of the state’s incarceration crisis. This is a common-sense reform that will address this root problem of mass incarceration. Studies now show that harsher sentences do not make our communities safer. Instead, they place burdens on families and communities and cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in Oklahoma alone,” said Anthony R. Douglas, President, Oklahoma State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Oklahomans for Sentencing Reform is a diverse and bipartisan initiative committed to implementing common-sense sentencing reform in Oklahoma. The group, which includes community leaders, advocates and directly impacted people, intends to curb the use of harsh and ineffective sentence enhancements by advocating to put State Question 805 on the 2020 ballot. To learn more about this ballot initiative, please visit https://www.yeson805.org/.